- PositionFormer Mayor of South Bend, Ind.
Former Mayor of South Bend, Ind., Pete Buttigieg responded to questions sent by Fortune and Time’s Up in a video filmed by his campaign. The following transcript of that video response has been edited for length and clarity.
Fortune/Time’s Up: Do you believe that the United States should have comprehensive paid family and medical leave, and if so, what is your proposal to make it happen?
Buttigieg: The time has come for the United States to join the nations in the world that provide paid family leave. And making sure that medical leave and family leave are available to everybody will be a priority in my administration.
In South Bend, in my administration, we brought for the first time paid family leave to city workers. Now the time has come to make sure that every American enjoys that. It’s why we not only need to pass the FAMILY Act, we need to go beyond it with enhancements like making sure that chosen family members, grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings qualify.
Because families take many forms. The bottom line is we need to make sure that this is available to everyone in our country. It’s part of what it means to be able to support workers and support the American people wherever they are. And I won’t rest until we’ve delivered it.
How will you ensure that families who need it have access to safe, affordable childcare?
We need to deliver affordable and safe childcare to every family. And we’ve got a lot of work to do as a country to make that a reality. It’s not going to get fixed without deferral funds. I’m insisting that we use federal funds in order to make sure that childcare is free to those who are at or near the poverty line, and affordable for all families, not rising above 7% of income.
Right now in many places, it is as expensive to provide a year of childcare as it is a year of college. This is making it harder for so many Americans, especially women, to remain in the workforce. And some find that all of their earnings in the workforce just go to supporting the childcare that they need in order to be able to work.
This is no way to continue, and it will improve when we make those needed investments that I believe will more than pay for themselves in the long-run benefit to children and families across America.
Do you think institutions—from Congress to Fortune 500 companies—have done enough to address sexual harassment? What have you done, and what will you do, to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace?
I am proposing that we invest $10 billion over the coming decade to end workplace harassment. In particular, this means increasing the resources available to protect employees through the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission].
We need to act to ensure that no workplace is one where these kinds of harassment diminish people’s opportunity to thrive. And in particular, there’s evidence that this is part of what’s causing the gender pay gap in America.
Not only must we have better enforcement, but we must have transparency, high standards, and begin by ensuring that even through education we establish a different culture that sets a tone that in the private and public sector, anywhere in America, workplace sexual harassment is completely unacceptable.
Women in the U.S. earn 80 cents on white men’s dollar in wages, a gap that gets even wider for black women, Latinas, and Native American women. What is your plan to work with employers to close the pay and opportunity gap for women, including women of color, LGBTQ women, and working mothers?
Left alone, the current trends suggest that the gender pay gap for all women, including women of color, won’t be closed for another 200 years. That’s unacceptable. We need to close that gap in our time. How can we do it? Well partly it’s that enforcement to make sure that when you have like-for-like jobs that are not being compensated equally, that there is an opportunity to enforce and take action.
But it’s not just that kind of apples-to-apples discrimination that’s driving the pay gap. It’s the fact that many areas and lines of work that disproportionately have women or have more women of color are less likely to have workplace or labor protections. It’s one of the reasons why we need to make sure that domestic workers, farmworkers, and others are able to get the same kinds of opportunities to organize and seek workplace protections as in other professions.
We need to act against harassment, and we need to make sure that when we add childcare, we do it with the intention to prevent women from having to leave the workforce and find that when they return, they’re at a disadvantage and for the rest of their careers not able to catch up when it comes to compensation.
On everything from direct pay discrimination to the structure of social, political, and economic empowerment of women, we have to act to make sure that we are intentionally closing the pay gap. And in particular, the way that the pay gap affects women who are at the intersection of other patterns of exclusion, like LGBTQ women, and women of color, and Native women. So that this is truly a country where there is equal pay for equal work.
I am proposing that we require employers to report pay data by quintile, broken down by race and gender, so that consumers, employees, the public, and enforcers can see what is happening with these kinds of gender pay gaps.
Do you support policies that require corporations to have women and other underrepresented groups on corporate boards? Why or why not?
It’s critical that we increase the representation and leadership of women in corporate governance structures and especially corporate boards. I will use the institutional power of the federal government as an investor and as a purchaser to make sure that we are promoting gender diversity on corporate boards, which by the way has been shown to increase not only workplace fairness, but the actual effectiveness and profitability of organizations. And I’ll also make sure that we are working with banks to require demographic information about lending practices, to make sure that they are doing their part to capitalize women-led organizations.
Would you—and how would you—propose to strengthen protection for people who need accommodations to do their jobs while pregnant or who are discriminated against because of their pregnancies at work?
No woman should ever have to risk her economic security in order to take care of her health. This is why we need to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, to end forms of discrimination that can disadvantage pregnant workers, and update the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, to reflect modern realities in today’s workplace. We need to make sure that women while pregnant, and after returning to work, are supported and accommodated, and that we make sure that we are welcoming and supporting the continued growth, progress, and success of women’s careers before, during, and after pregnancy.
This project was published on Jan. 28, 2020.